Week 6, Topic 6 = Geospatial analysis

According to Haughn and Rouse (2014) the definition of geospatial analysis is:

“Geospatial analysis is the gathering, display, and manipulation of imagery, GPS, satellite photography and historical data, described explicitly in terms of geographic coordinates or implicitly, in terms of a street address, postal code, or forest stand identifier as they are applied to geographic models.”

We did a mapping exercise in class involving data of Oxford Knights which was quite interesting. The data was already gathered by previous students so we could just import the data into alphabetical columns.

By using spatial analysis or datamapping tracking is made easier. By mapping the data with geospatial analysis we were able to see where the Oxford Knights came from to go to school, as well as the differences across the various centuries. Like for example, imagine that in the 1800s most of them came from Wales while in the 1700s they came from somewhere closer to Oxford.

To Geocode this information we used Google Fusion tables. We had to reduce the amount of time it would take to geocode so we did this by setting all the columns in yellow to ‘text’ and then ‘Change’. This meant that the tool ignored those columns for geo-encoding purposes.

As always with manmade things there is a margin for error so for this exercise there was an error that we had to fix. We had to manually change the program’s interpretation of Surrey from a town in Canadas west coast by the same name, and that did not exist at that time, to the correct Surrey in the UK.

When the geo-encoding is done and you get your map the Knights are represented by balloon-like pins in different colours. This is only one of several ways to look at the map. We also used a hotspot map which I thought was easier to read because it was not as spread around, it was easier to interpret and understand. On the heatmap we could increase both radius and opacity to see where these people were clustered.

There really wasn’t any big changes when filtering by year. The biggest difference was probably that more people came from Wales between 1000-1600 than between 1600-1714. By filtering shorter periods like 1550-1570 it was interesting to see that in addition to Oxford there were three other areas that had enough Knights to be significant in the heatmap. However, in the time before the 1550’s there were none or at least not enough Knights to even make a blip on the heatmap. By looking at the map through various filters it seems that the time between 1570-1600 was the peak years of the Oxford Knights. As you can see in the picture below it is clear from the data gathered that the Oxford Knights ended soon after 1710.

When filtering by ‘College’ we see that the graduates are from quite different places. Graduates from Brasenose College come from mid-west around Liverpool, Christ Church College graduates come from southeast in and around London while graduates from Exeter College come from places close to Okehampton and Bodmin which are southwest in England. This tells us that the different colleges attracts students from different areas, possibly because of a wide range of subjects or because of their specific subject.

In conclusion, I don’t think we could have found out everything we did if we hadn’t used geospatial analysis. We might have been able to figure it out, but I am certain that would take a much longer time.  I did not know any of this before and I could not tell any of it by looking at the original records. Looking at the original records would mean having to look and compare several of the columns and it would have taken a lot of time. All technology nowadays is to help us make things easier and to go faster, Google Fusion Tables is no exception, which I think is a good thing.

References/Bibliography:

Haughn, M. and Rouse, M. (2014) What is geospatial analysis? – Definition from WhatIs.com. Available at: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/geospatial-analysis (Accessed: 24 April 2015)
Advertisements

Week 4, Topic 4 = Programming for historians

The definition of computer programming is: A series of instructions given to the computer to direct it to carry out certain operations (Dictionary.com, 2015). In short, writing a computer program to do certain tasks.

To at least learn some basic programming could be very useful for historians. Knowing how to program the computer to search for something for you helps sift through a lot of data faster. A downside could be that computers are not always 100% reliable, but this could be solved easily by making security copies of your work regularly to an external hard drive. Another downside is that computer programs might overlook something that you wouldn’t unless you program it to look for that specifically. You must account for misspelling and different ways of writing the same word(s).

Other downsides or limits could be that you will never get more out of it than what you put in and you can not program feelings or certain cultural differences. The computer program will never be able to intepret the data so the historians will have to. On the positive side though it does help reduce the information to look through like I mentioned above. Also, in most search programs you would need to know some syntax and semantics to help with your programming, and syntax is not that easy.

Janine Noack (2014) thinks that for historians to learn programming would be good because it can help you to be more of an outside the box thinker, develop your creative thinking, as well as help you to build logical connections. And with the various tools provided to us by people through the internet, like Python or Codeacademy, you can learn programming in a way that’s fun and not too difficult.

I do believe that programming might be easier to learn if you learn some basic HTML and CSS first. I had the benefit of learning that in senior high so I found Python pretty easy to use. Other people might not.

To quote Noack (2014), “Knowing basic coding helps us to better understand the programs available and in the end, to adapt them to our specific needs.”

I don’t think I could have said it better myself. Understanding how something works makes it easier for us to adapt it toward our specific purpose or needs. Though as mentioned earlier, few things are completely without flaws. This is why knowing the right way to systematize information is so important. Let’s say that someone is looking for the average age of wrestling champions. To do this they would need to find two things; when the champions are born and when they won the championship.

User mcheesaker (hist291.wordpress.com, 2013) also agrees that knowing how to program would allow one to search for keywords through large amount of data. Although mcheesaker also raises the point that one can use Command/Ctrl + F for that which I do a lot myself.

Sienna Latham (2012) also agrees that knowing how to code for yourself makes things easier. She learned Python with help from her husband as usually he was the one coding, but his free time grew shorter so she decided to learn for herself.

I agree with what Noack and Latham has been saying as I have experienced it myself through helping my father with his website and with systematizing his data to be used in his historical and statistical wrestling books. So, in conlusion I do believe that Noack and user mcheesaker (from hist291.wordpress.com) are right when they’re basically saying that it makes things easier when used right as well as it, meaning programming, being a big part of this new and constantly evolving world.

Bibliography

From Analog to Python: Should A Digital Historian Know How to Program? | Digital History @ UW on WordPress.com (2013) Available at: https://hist291.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/from-analog-to-python-should-a-digital-historian-know-how-to-program/ (Accessed: 16 April 2015)
Latham, S. (2012) Coding for Historians, Part 1
Noack, J. (2014) Why historians should learn how to code (at least a bit). Available at: http://doinghistoryinpublic.org/2014/07/03/why-historians-should-learn-how-to-code/ (Accessed: 16 April 2015)
The Definition of Programming (2015) in Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/programming (Accessed: 17 April 2015)

 

Crowdsourcing assignment

Crowdsourcing

A critical look

14109867 | Digital History | 16. mars 2015

Crowdsourcing has made it possible to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time by dividing the “tasks” between volunteers interested in whatever the crowdsourcing sites are offering. It is about sharing and utilizing the creative and competitive soul of people from all over the world so they can solve problems, both big and small (Wadhwa, 2014). It is giving people an opportunity to help with something they are interested in while also being a part of something bigger. People get to use their creativeness to solve problems and their competitive side might also come out especially when there are rankings involved. Feeling proud for helping to achieve something is probably one of the most important things participants get for dedicating their time and knowledge to help.

There are several different types of crowdsourcing sites. Old Weather is a site looking for specific information and it has a ranking system, while in the Australian ‘Trove’ newspaper project you are looking for mistakes to fix. What you get out of the different projects is probably quite individual.

There are both pros and cons to crowdsourcing. Having a ‘choice of ideas’ is a pro. This means that instead of having to use the ideas from one person or agency you can choose between several ideas from a “crowd” of people (NFIB.com, 2010). Lower cost or no cost at all is also a big pro, especially for companies with big projects to transcribe.

Some downsides to crowdsourcing, like with pretty much everything else, is that it is easy to make mistakes. Some might even make mistakes intentionally as some kind of “boycott” of the project. This can be solved by having someone look over the transcribed pages, like Old Weather (2013) does, to correct mistakes or “slips” of the keyboard.

I found that even the supposedly easy manuscripts to transcribe on the Transcribing Bentham website were hard to understand, which is a problem when it comes to crowdsourcing. For volunteers to help they have to be able to understand what they are transcribing and there are probably quite a few people out there who can’t read old handwritings like the one on Transcribing Bentham.

Both Old Weather and the Australian ‘Trove’ newspaper project give you a sense of how the culture was at those times in history, what was important and what was not. Getting to see/experience the different scripts is something both projects have done well. Old Weather also has a ranking system which I think appeals to the competitive side most of us humans have. The Australian site could probably put a ranking system on their site as well to appeal to a wider crowd. Old Weather is looking for specific information, but have several tabs to fill out that I didn’t need to use. This is something they should fix as it is confusing to people who don’t know much about boats or what info they are looking for.

Both projects could probably also benefit from making people more aware that they are out there, cultivate a broader audience (Gibbs and Owens, 2012). This way more people would participate and be encouraged to be historians or at least make history more available to participants (Frankle, 2011).

References

Bibliography

Frankle, E. (2011) Center for the Future of Museums: More Crowdsourced Scholarship: Citizen History,Futureofmuseums.blogspot.no/. Available at: http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.no/2011/07/more-crowdsourced-scholarship-citizen.html (Accessed: 18 March 2015).

Gibbs, F. and Owens, T. (2012) DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: Building Better Digital Humanities Tools: Toward broader audiences and user-centered designsDigital Humanities Quarterly. Available at: http://digitalhumanities.org:8081/dhq/vol/6/2/000136/000136.html (Accessed: 16 March 2015).

NFIB.com (2010) The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing: Is it for Your Small Business?. National Federation of Independent Business. Available at: http://www.nfib.com/article/the-pros-and-cons-of-crowdsourcing-is-it-for-your-small-business-52166/ (Accessed: 17 March 2015).

Wadhwa, V. (2014) ‘Benefits of Crowdsourcing’, The Wall Street Journal. WSJ. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/benefits-of-crowdsourcing-1414625224 (Accessed: 18 March 2015).

Zooniverse (2013) Our Weather’s Past, the Climate’s FutureOld Weather. Available at: http://www.oldweather.org/ (Accessed: 17 March 2015).

Week 2, Topic 2 = Critically evaluating websites

This week the task was to critically evaluate a website as a group. My group was given the website http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/ to look at and evaluate.

This guide from 1995 is still very much valid and was helpful in remembering everything you should check before making sure a website is relevant or trustworthy. The site has a sort of checklist which makes it easier. Some of the things on that check list are:

  • Is it a personal page?
  • domain name (.org, .gov, .mil, .edu)
  • publisher(s) of the page
  • Author?
  • Is it dated? Is it current enough?
  • authors credentials?
  • documented or linked sources?

The website is general world history with some British and American politics mixed in there.
The site seems like a good place to get the basics of world history when writing essays and assignments. From 2000-2013 most of the website was written by Chris Trueman who had a BA (Honours) in history from Aberystwyth University and an MA in management from Brighton University. After he died in 2013 it appears that his niece and nephew and the team of history graduates from Business Data took over, but I am not sure how much one should trust them as that’s the only thing about them mentioned. No PhD, BA’s or MA’s mentioned, just that they’re history graduates. No names either so what makes them qualified or trustworthy?

The website does not have a domain name like mentioned in the list above. It is simply just a .co.uk domain name which is not necessarily a bad thing, but does put some doubt as to how much to trust the site.

Unless you have Adblock for your webbrowser like I do then the first thing you’ll see is probably all the ads all around the website. They are very distracting and although they are probably there to get money to keep the site going I think they would do better with fewer ads. As it is there are just too many.

The site is a bit confusing and could probably use a makeover with an even easier way to find what you’re looking for. We also found that there is no referencing in any of the posts we looked at which isn’t that great and could diminish some of the credibility of the site itself. Trueman must have used some sources to write these texts to get them as accurate as possible so why not put the references in the posts or at the bottom of the posts. Otherwise, the way it is now, just makes it seem like Trueman wrote everything from memory and while he may be a brilliant man with his BA (Hons) and MA, it does not inspire much confidence as logically we know he learnt all this information somewhere.

There is also a blog on the site where you can post your own blogposts. This can be a really good thing, but since none of the blogposts have the name of the author we don’t know if anything in there is credible which is a shame as there are probably a lot of brilliant minds out there wanting to share their knowledge on this or other websites whom people might not take seriously when there is no name attached.

If you’re gonna use this site for assignments then I suggest using it just for the basic information and get more in depth information elsewhere. The site is easily read and understandable, but like I’ve mentioned before, if you are to use it make sure to double check it with other reliable sources. The internet is a well of information, but be careful what and how you use it.

References/Bibliography:

Kupersmith, J. (1995) Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask
Trueman, C. (2010) History Learning Site

Week 1, Topic 1 = Twitter as a tool

As Cummings and Jarrett (2013) says: “The late-twentieth century saw a staggering growth of media that permitted people to express themselves without going through traditional gatekeepers such as editors, publishers, or record labels.” Twitter and blogs are such medias.

Twitter seems like a good tool for historians to use for promoting interesting articles, including their own, and for having conversations with other historians or people interested in the same topics as them. Conversations in which they can discuss, help and possibly challenge each other to dig deeper. I saw a lot of short conversations where people shared their knowledge and enthusiasm for different topics or where they tried helping each other with various problems.

According to Elisabeth Grant (2011), there are at least five ways for historians  to use Twitter:

  1. Follow Organizations
  2. Use Hashtags
  3. Tweet and Retweet a Conference
  4. Share Resources
  5. Search for jobs

She raises some very valid points with everything she’s saying. Like following organizations when going on a research trip to get updates on things such as early closings, the highlights of their collection as well as ask the staff some questions. And using the hashtags to find other historians and ask them questions or to associate yourself to a group.

The third point she raises is one I think everyone can relate to. We all like being kept up to date on certain things. For me it’s television and books while for others it is historic research or something else. Using a specific hashtag for a conference is almost the same as when Comic Con is happening in San Diego and journalists use the #ComicCon or #ComicCon2015 hashtag to update other people on what is going on and what is being said. Tweeting your opinions on a conference or retweeting comments you think are interesting is also an option.

Point number four is about sharing resources in the form of  some interesting articles, digitized documents and blogs through common hashtags. I’m not sure I would agree completely with point number 5 as I’m not sure Twitter is the right place to search for jobs though I’m sure you can find a few there if you look.

Elisabeth Grant is not the only one to say that social media and/or blogs should be used by historians. Dan Cohen says “Blogs are just like other forms of writing, such as books, in that there’s a whole lot of trash out there—and some gems worth reading.” I dare say that this is the same for Twitter as you have to be critical of your sources which means following the right organizations or people.

A problem with both blogs and Twitter is that there is a possibility of being anonymous. This is a problem because as historians you need to use reliable sources which you can’t be sure they are if they are anonymous.

Looking at different historians twitter profiles it seems they follow journalists, other historians and authors with some of the same interests as them. Like I mentioned earlier Twitter is a good tool to get people interested or make them aware of your topics and interests, This seems to be what most of the historians do. Posner and Croxall (2011) make a valid point when saying that the more you engage and participate productively with others the higher your profile will be. Some might also use Twitter to get some sort of peer reviews, not necessarily by professionals, though I didn’t see any historians that I found doing that. Peer reviews or commentary from people online can be a good thing as long as those people are critical and not just outright rude when stating opinions. Most people in general, not just historians, are on Twitter to share their enthusiasm of things whether it’d be tv shows, movies, comics, books (academic and fictional) or history.

Refernces/Bibliography:

Cohen, D. (2006) Professors, Start Your Blogs
Cummings, A. S. and Jarrett, J. (2013) Writing History in the Digital Age » Informal Writing, Blogging & the Academy (Cummings & Jarrett)
Grant, E. (2011) Five Ways for Historians to Use Twitter – American Historical Association. Available at: http://blog.historians.org/2011/08/five-ways-for-historians-to-use-twitter/ (Accessed: 26 April 2015)
Posner, M. and Croxall, B. (2011) Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics – ProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education